In the two years since the COVID-19 pandemic began, there have been many changes while some parts of daily routines have returned to “pre-COVID” life.
This week marked two full years since the first COVID-19 cases were reported in Texas. At that point in 2020, restrictions on businesses had not been announced yet. Kendra Shier, Vice-President of Operations at Jake’s, said it is surreal to reflect on the past two years.
“It’s been the most challenging two years of my life. I’m proud of my team, that we’ve come out of this pandemic with sales growth and growing new restaurants, but it was ‘pivot’ every single day,” Shier said. “How can we reinvent ourselves? How can we get food out the door, delivery, takeout? How can we be there for our teams and comforting them with folks that were struggling with the illness?”
Jake’s has eight locations across North Texas, with the business continuing to grow. Shier said throughout the pandemic, they have followed all of the guidelines on reopening safely. During the early stages of the pandemic, they offered curbside services and limited indoor seating. There were also increased efforts on cleaning protocols, which have stayed in place.
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Shier said another challenge they were forced to face was supply chain issues. What started as innovation out of necessity has also led to permanent changes, she said.
“We were loading cases of onion rings from Sam’s and everywhere we could just to get the store’s product, but one of the items… fried pickles and fried jalapenos… they just stopped producing them,” she said. “So, we took that in-house. Now we make that homemade. They were so great, we’re never going to go back to the frozen product again.”
Dr. Mo Rezaie, an internal medicine physician in Fort Worth, said the pandemic was something she never expected to experience in her career.
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“It’s been bananas, bonkers, crazy. Whatever kind of word you want to use to describe the chaos, the hectic pace, the stress,” Dr. Rezaie said. “It’s been grueling. It has really, I think, tested our limits.”
At the same time, Rezaie said physicians and other healthcare workers have also bonded during the pandemic.
“This was a real pandemic. This was never no doubt about it. There was no political theatre about it. It was real. We saw the aftermath,” she said.
Dr. Rezaie added, she has been able to breathe easier in the past few weeks due to an improvement in overall COVID-19 trends. The spike in cases in mid-January was the highest she had seen throughout the pandemic.
“It’s been that moment of crazy up here… and now it’s kind of calming down, okay…do we wait for the next storm, or is this really the end?” she said. “If you’re immunocompromised though, if you live with someone who is immunocompromised, I’d say for those folks, you got to stay vigilant.”
Looking back, Shier said challenges were coupled with pride and grit.
“We’re proud. We’re proud of our team and we’re very thankful for our guests for keeping us in business,” she said.
There’s also hope that better days are ahead, she said.